Psychic In Today’s World?

As a longtime comic book fan, I often have thought of super powers. I don’t know any fan who hasn’t actually. Many are outlandish, or almost overblown caricatures of real-life abilities. I am a fan of Stan Lee’s Superhumans series. The one power I think that most people believe in, but has never really been proven, is Psychic phenomena. I personally believe in the possibility of it, and would love to see proof surface, but I fear it may never appear, at least in the Western world.
I say it may never for a couple of reasons. First though, I want to address the Comics and their portrayal, then the archetype that seems to prevail from it. Most comics books I know, and I am by no means an overall expert, so I will preface this with the fact that I have not read or seen all comic book psychic characters, just a few, and mostly Marvel. So though my experience is limited, I believe what I do know suffices for the sake of my argument here.
Comics seem to show psychic ability to be something easily controlled, something that manifests conveniently upon puberty, or slowly grows along with the child/hero and progresses with their growth. Any character that had trouble with their power, had a bad upbringing, or couldn’t handle their power, etc. I understand both the need and basis for this model, but I want to propose a variant, with only the most highest level of similarity. What if the person was psychic from birth? and the power was always there, but learning what it was would be the difficulty, only because the person is unable to know they are different.
The archetype of psychics, both for sale and in comics, is that the psychic somehow knows what they know. This is only possible if they had grown up, then acquired the power of hearing thoughts or reading minds, or what have you. I am limiting my exercise here mostly to telepathy, as the other “psychic” abilities, such as telekinesis, fit, albeit to a lesser degree. Imagine for a moment that you always heard other people’s thoughts. The trick would be to know which were yours. Sounds easy, because we always only hear our own thoughts. You hear only your own voice in your head. Any one who claims different, is, quite reasonably, called crazy, carefully analyzed, and treated for their mental disorder. But what if someone did make it without being detected, if they were able to somehow know they heard others, and they weren’t crazy. What could that person do?
I say it resembles the archetype in that as humans, all things require learning curves. Learning how to interpret that ability would be a monumental task. If we give it even a limited, comics-inspired physical basis, lets say that their mental “view” somehow could sense the electric(magnetic) pulses that make up human thought. These are known to be cascades, like lightning arcing across the cortex. I am painting with broad strokes for the sake of argument here, for certain. Learning, as a child does with everything, how to start to interpret the things, the feel, from others, in the same frame as all other languages and communications. Would this person be considered Special Education? Would they fall behind because of it?
I believe this to be an “A-ha!” moment. When we now must ask, “What kind of person would make it through knowing, at least to some extent interpreting,others thoughts, while growing up in today’s world? And how much would location dictate that person’s character disposition? Since thoughts do not start out as words, and though spoken languages are pretty much universal for humans, they are all learned, so we have a penchant or attaching patterns to other patterns. I am trying to imagine getting the feeling, or other thought patterns, like mental pictures, or something primal, that anyone would understand, while learning this. Having the emotional thoughts be transmitted first would be my thought. Empathy would be the first form of telepathy, and, with the exception of telekinesis, possibly the first variant of psychic abilities to appear. Maybe this is as far as most would be able to interpret, as few other things are universally translated into thought patterns.

Not our hero though, this person has exceeded this, as other cognitive abilities develop, let’s assume our hero develops the pattern recognition ability even further, albeit unconsciously, like so many others in preteen years, it is hard to know even that others aren’t like you, especially if you are living in a society that teaches that all people are the same, and you should “do unto them as you would have them do unto you”. So our young hero thinks everyone hears things the same way. I mean after all, to have it be otherwise would not only be impossible, it would be crazy, at least if it were complex things such as words, and voices, or pictures, or even fully formed ideas and other abstract object thoughts. Let’s say, by some luck of chance, our psychic has an ability that starts at emotions, and progresses along the same lines and human psyche. Instinct is first, Self-Preservation, then emotion. Let’s give Instinct the convenient and brief definition of cellular or genetic memory, or more importantly for us, inherent physical memories and/or abilities.
Understanding the development of others is probably the first place our psychic, as do most, would begin to develop the sense of identity that would allow them to understand that others didn’t think like them. Relative hierarchy would probably be the place it would be learned from in my opinion. What kind of person could read the basic intents and emotions of others in today’s teen world and not go stark raving mad? I am surprised any of the regular teens do, much less someone burdened by another form of communication that wasn’t supposed to be possible, and has to develop and learn on their own. I mean, in reality, where would the “first” psychic go to learn these things? More importantly, what would being able to “feel” others do to someone, and what could they learn?
I suppose here is where geopolitical factors, as well as environmental and nurturing states would all come into play. Never underestimate the power of humanity however, as the brain is plastic, and our psychic seems to have the natural serendipity to fall through the cracks of society, not fitting in would be a good way to do that. The top of the underbelly of the Beast is where most of those good souls that see through the B.S. of everyday Western life often land. Just bad enough to lie and keep secrets, just good enough to only do it to help each other stay afloat of the deeper depths.
I would think that something akin to a “spider-sense” would develop as a natural defense mechanism, just as with other preservation adaptations. Second would be Empathy, or feeling others emotions on some level. I believe that a form of “lie” detection would possibly be next. All of this would be extremely difficult mind you, if this were true, knowing what was, and what wasn’t, yours, would be a herculean task. I mean, not only knowing when a thought wasn’t yours, but that it originated in another AND it was fabricated? Getting to the level of whole thoughts, words, and pictures, while heavily dependent on exposure, would be even more so. Getting others to hear you, much less obey, would be an amazing development. Barriers in perception, interpretation, language, and emotional triggers, would be a seemingly impossible thing, on top of the impossible ability.
Again, what kind of person would be able to do all of this, and not hurt a bunch of people, or themselves, or just plain find someone, confess it all and get put in a looney bin? Would they know, and have the foresight to stay quiet, and stay out of the public eye, and make sure there was always doubt on what happened? I would think the latter would be necessary. I also think a fair amount of narcissism and humility would be needed just to even try, I don’t think it would be someone who craved the spotlight, as every movie fan, comic book fan, and just about anyone else knows, what we don’t understand, or we fear, we tend to destroy. Besides, the rewards of staying out of the light, outweigh being in it.
There are several prizes for someone who can publicly demonstrate their ability scientifically to many different organizations. But, consider for a moment, a high level ability, and the possibility that the benefits of quiet manipulation would outwiegh the few million you could pocket going on a world tour, showing off. And besides, after a lifetime of hiding, a natural ability to shroud oneself would be highly likely to develop. An aversion to the public eye even? It would be hard to tell.
I don’t think we would see it. I don’t think the person would go for the smaller sum. That kind of ability is invaluable to governments all over the world. Business, stocks, or just personal protection or even as a weapon. The value of it as a secret, is far more than the value it has as public knowledge.
I give a caveat, Predictability. The very thing that the public displays intend to prove is what would drive someone to them. More appropriately, a lack of it. If there were errors in interpretation, the percentages would still be higher than chance, but there would be errors of processing. This is where I think the comic book archetype fails those who may see it first. That the complete ability to read everything a person thinks with utter, stark accuracy is like light speed, in that it is conceivable, but probably unobtainable because of inherent limitations. I do not think someone brought up in an average way would be able to know this. Let’s hope our psychic has at least an understanding of statistical variability. This hasn’t even touched on the social impact yet.
Imagine for a moment, labeled as “Psychic” in today’s world. Never being able to ever participate in competitions, or hold an intimate conversation. How many people would expect you to literally “read their minds”? Would you be able to charge for proof? What would the cost of being read by the world’s “only” psychic be? If you are interested in doing it for humanity, then you would take what would possibly be the most influential power in comic books to come into real life and not make tons of money with it. Could that even be done in today’s world? I am not sure. Today, it seems that it is better to get money, then use the money to help people. I think anyone able to manifest that ability, and control it with any degree of accuracy, would be manipulating as much of the events possible to make their fortune large, so they could maintain shadow operations. I believe it would be built into them, as a matter of human development. Maybe not, after all, Humanity is more than a species, it is a declaration of a kinship to some degree. Maybe that is even where the power might lie, only the hero would know I suppose.
And so I come back to the end. I don’t believe we would know, as a general public. I think that between the course of natural human development, and geopolitical environmental factors, would keep such a wondrous human achievement out of the spotlight. And if it was something inheritable, or even more frightening, teachable, then that person would be valuable in a whole different way. I shudder to think, what if we ALL could tell others’ lies, could read each others minds? Or the trait/ability was somehow distributed to the larger public, either by artificial means, or later evolution, what would our society be like then?
I personally hope that anyone who had that kind of power, would be like Buddha, or Jesus, or Mother Theresa. May probability favor us all if someone with a less Utopian lean were to gain it. I think the only option after that would be to give it to everyone. I also see it being distributed genetically as a means to fight a “Terminator”-like future state where machines and people are at war.
I am sure the detailed reasons and development variables could fill a book or a few comics at least, but I deeply question if there is any psychic abilities out there, that the general public would be privy to them. I just think that the incentive to stay hidden, and even slight exposure, or garnering the right friends, would just serve to keep it even more hidden. The competitive advantage of it being secret is just too great. The person would have to be of such high character, it would almost be a Clark Kent-ish caricature.

And so I give you another Dose of Andrew. Read it twice, and comment in the morning.

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Healthcare Reform

I am only going to make this short, as there is so many sites and others writing about this, it is easier and more efficient to post links and give an overview than to regurgitate all of the information. Mostly, I am going to push my opinion: the Affordable Care Act is a good thing. Here is why: It allows every citizen to be covered by health insurance, it stimulates economic growth by requiring private industry coverage, it makes it possible for people with little income to not have to forego healthcare because of economic hardship, like someone with Cancer or another devastating disease foregoing healthcare in order to pay rent or something like that, and it does something else that is very, very important; it makes us all financially invested in each others health. My tax dollars go toward healthcare, so everyone should take better care of themselves. In my opinion, it is not coincidental that the Farmer’s Assurance Provision (monsanto protection act – colloquially) is on the same budget that funds the Affordable Care Act. Keeping large corporate farms from being held legally liable for the things they are able to legally own, like DNA, while every citizen becomes financially invested in health is an interesting play. To my eyes it would mean that any large organization that engages in practices and/or business that harms the collective health, or has the distinct potential to do so now has a direct financial reasoning to be legally pursued: the public interest. If money is equivalent to speech, then every citizen speaks with their taxes and premiums that they most definitely want the health of the public to never be infringed upon by anyone, private or public. The ACA gives a fiduciary reasoning for legal action collectively. Also, it does invade a little bit of privacy, even though the coverage is privately provided, YOUR health is almost literally MY business. That has implications also.

For private industry, especially the fitness industry, it means a plethora of business opportunity. Healthy living is now federally supported, and it is supported by monthly premiums that people pay, and yearly taxes. If you don’t understand what that means, perhaps you may take this advice, and the insurance companies also: personal trainers, especially the people who are nationally or at least widely known, get your brokers license. Maybe as time goes on, the insurance companies will provide a specific license just for health insurance, but just think about getting a commission on every member who makes a commitment and sign up with you. That is only the beginning of what could be a beautiful partnership between insurance, and fitness, not just hospitals and doctors. Preventative and maintenance health will be a massive subsidiary to this reform. In 2015, when businesses must provide coverage, partnering with small business will be an excellent way to garner loyal following, as well as stable customer base, all while decreasing the overall public cost. It is a profitable business model, and one i believe, and hope, will be adopted in the next few years, the first people who can get it done, and get it done right will enjoy quite a head start.

That wraps up my short post, mostly an opinion piece, so here are some links for the facts:

League of Women Voters: http://leaguelafayette.org/files/aca_mythsfacts120820.pdf

FactCheck.org: http://www.factcheck.org/2013/09/obamacare-myths/

Veterans Administration: http://www.va.gov/health/aca/Fact-Sheet.asp

AARP: http://www.aarp.org/health/health-care-reform/health_reform_factsheets/

Health and Human Services website, lots of related pages and posts here: http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/bystate/statebystate.html

HHS with a state by state view: http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/bystate/statebystate.html

an Obamacare site that is quite level-headed about the whole thing: http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-myths.php

Africa, Poop, Waste, and Common Needs

If you have seen my blog before, or are looking at it now, (ahem, as you should be if you are reading this) you can see my previous posting about biogas and waste in a small-scale business model with a cartridge or small receptacle style collection paradigm. Here is a paper I recently wrote that expands on that, and can include a traditional sewer and solid waste treatment type, as well as normal waste with mechanical separation. It is brief, because of the necessity of the forum I was using, but here is the whole paper…

Africa and the World, an Energy and Agriculture necessity
Africa is on a cusp of a revolution in how it lives. What that revolution is will depend heavily on how it comes to fruition. Africa has many problems, and none will be solved quickly, but ideas are the currency of the future, and so, here is mine. There is a push for biodiesel produced and farmed in Africa, but destined to make profits, and be used, mostly in foreign markets. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/31/biofuel-plantations-africa-british-firms)  Even the local governments push that the revenue will be mostly tax generated to improve the standards of living through social programs. (http://www.africabiofuel.com/Benefits.aspx) Yet the report on Africa’s problems concerning irrigation and mechanization show a distinct need for diesel-engined equipment to further the mechanization and agricultural development of Africa to maintain standards for the population, economies, and governments of Africa sustainably. I have another suggestion: poop. Or, more accurately, waste. Disposal of garbage, human, and livestock waste all have massive potential in a continent with the varied geography, natural resources, and cultures that Africa has. They all share problems common to the world however, which is to say that mechanization and progress almost inevitably lead to more waste.
Biogas generators have been around for awhile, but only in recent years have the efficiency and multi-use capabilities really been looked at, and developed. The most efficient design is a CHP (Combined Heat and Power) design that not only gets energy from the Methane produced, but uses the exhaust gasses to drive a steam turbine. And let us not forget that the exhaust from burning Methane is about 60% water (clean water) and 30% carbon dioxide, with a few impurities making up the remainder. (CHP and municipal solid waste designs here: http://www.clarke-energy.com/gas-type/sewage-gas/ and http://www.clarke-energy.com/gas-type/biogas/mbt-ad-energy/ best diagrammatics I found were from this companies’ website, but the principle is the same everywhere) the same principles and basic designs apply across a range of waste sources: the leftover material from fermentation, for alcohol or biodiesel production, the organic waste from agriculture including livestock waste and unused plant material, solid waste from landfill-type facilities, and my favorite, seaweed. One of the ideas not discussed in any website, but the technology is sound, is to use the exhaust gases from a methane burner to power desalination. Distillery methods of desalination are old, well-proven, and of extreme utility to the parched regions of Africa, and the Sea Salt leftover from the process is a valuable commercial commodity worldwide as well as locally. There is some concern for a major impurity known as siloxanes, which leave a silicate residue from the generation. This is also a commodity, as the silicate can be smelted same as with any silicates mined. Also, the sludge left after anaerobic digestion is a high quality fertilizer that enriches the soil, and slows or eliminates the erosion and strip-farming techniques used without high-quality fertilizers.
To recap, there is a renewable resource for electricity production, and it’s waste products are: heat, to be used for generating steam electricity, creating nearly 90% efficiency, or to be used to desalinate water for drinking or irrigation; its exhaust is mostly water vapor, again usable for drinking or irrigation; and carbon dioxide, a useful commodity itself for petroleum production, or even soft-drinks; and high quality organic fertilizers. The byproducts are almost completely usable, either for the direct good of the populace, or as commercially salable commodities. With village-based digesters, it can scale down for remote areas to produce their own intermittently, or with village size collectors, the waste can be transported to larger collection facilities to maximize constant running and efficiency and to make up for the extra transportation costs. Also, the by products of biodiesel production make excellent biogas seed materials. (http://www.clarke-energy.com/gas-type/biogas/agricultural-biogas/)
With a trinity of needs; mechanization, fertilization, and irrigation, driving the agriculture, and a solid electrical infrastructure to co-develop the industrial and commercial sectors along with that agricultural growth, waste is a serious resource for regions that are used to subsisting on less than human or direct livestock power, as well as industrialized regions transitioning to a more sustainable future. And as a bonus, all the wonderful fauna in Africa can help: think of all the electricity that can be made from elephant dung and other large animals. I focus on Africa for this, but the ideas can be implemented anywhere, from Africa, to Central America, to developed regions. San Diego, CA already has biogas electrical generation supplementing other municipal electricity sources, and is one of the largest users of desalinated water. Future designs for electricity could incorporate both. Central American, or Carribean nations with coastlines could benefit from this also. But Africa has the greatest potential gain, both in the short term, and in the long run. It is a sustainable energy source for now, and the future.
Other sources: http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/24176 , http://emispec.ca/en/internal-combustion-engine-powered-by-biogas.php , http://askville.amazon.com/combustion-byproducts-methane-natural-gas-Comparasons-ethanol-pump-help/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=2747357 , http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/drinkseawater.html , http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544206003033 , http://www.biocycle.net/2012/12/biogas-production-and-potential-from-u-s-wastewater-treatment/ , http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/17591/InTech-Biomass_waste_as_a_renewable_source_of_biogas_production_experiments.pdf

Role Models in Marriage

Scalia: “Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing. I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s — there’s considerable disagreement among — among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.”

A quote from Justice Scalia regarding the current hearings before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was referring to role models in both a gender, and societal, framework, and I would like to put my two cents in. Especially regarding the idea of harmful.

I originally was going to present a thoughtful argument with sociological studies, raw data, and a personal interpretation of that data. Instead, I will simply make anecdotal arguments, as I believe they are more powerful, and illustrative. If you want raw data, there’s always Google.

Stating that there is “considerable disagreement” among sociologists about same-sex marriage is incomplete in its scope, and misleading in its wording, especially coming from someone regarded as an authority in argumentation. Considerable is such a vague word. How about a more legal one, such as Preponderance of Evidence? the greater many social psychologists, sociologists, psychologists, and now he general population, understand it isn’t about the gender, it is about the people within that relationship. It is as if Justice Scalia has forgotten all of the domestic violence, rape, incest, and other crimes committed within that institution he is arguing is less harmful to children. There are plenty of examples of terrible Role Models within the traditional institution of marriage. I would argue that being raised by two people who belong to a class that have been able to overcome centuries of oppression, humiliation, and legal persecution, sometimes while other “sinful” practices are left legal, like bestiality, to name one, would be an outstanding set of Role Models. When compared to a traditional set of that may scream about a falsely perceived “war” on their religion, among many other beliefs not supported by evidence, and a tradition of oppression cloaked in tolerance, I argue that same-sex marriage has the potential to be even more nurturing and compassionate than what Justice Scalia is arguing for.

The Honorable Justice uses the lower courts’ rulings in a state basis to distance himself from the argument, but even using it places his position on the same side. Using vague, opinionated terms like “considerable disagreement” is comparable to saying “there’s considerable disagreement amongst biblical scholars as to the proper interpretation of the Bible”. Of course there is! That is why we have a Supreme Court! While unfortunate that it is not a court of Science and Logic, it is a Court on the interpretation of Law, in fact, if memory serves me correctly, it is The Supreme Court in this country on such matters. It isn’t just hearing arguments, but evaluating evidence in a logically consistent manner. Statements made such as Justice Scalia’s illustrate, on the face of it, a lack of comprehensive evidence, and an opinion based on such a lack.

Arguments about Role Models for children do not even touch upon the definition of a “class of peoples”, such as race, but also in religious beliefs. Religion is not only merely behavioral, it is a choice that can be changed throughout a person’s life, and every single choice is protected as a “class of people”. Homosexuality is not a choice, it is statement of being. Even if it was a choice, it is one of thought processes, behavior, and is not as changeable as religion, but it does involve thought processes that determine behavior, and should be afforded the same minimum protections as religious beliefs. Given the amount of death, dishonor, and harm perpetrated by religion (ahem, altar boys), Allowing people to have equal protection for believing they have the same rights as any other citizen to have their personal beliefs about their own sexuality and love, while still maintaining protections levied against any other loving couples, isn’t a choice, it is an Inalienable Right. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, guaranteed by that wonderful document The U.S. Constitution.

I challenge any sociologist, social psychologist, or legal authority to find a preponderance of evidence that would state the alternative to be less harmful. By that alternative I mean having a gay parent that is forced into a relationship that suppresses their true feelings, breeds resentment for the establishment, and has feelings derived from those that are projected onto their children, and say definitively that such an institution is better than allowing a more open and natural expression of their feelings. And also, present such ann argument without resorting to the necessity of counseling, as counseling is a great tool for helping all parents, not just heterosexual ones. There is a preponderance of historical evidence that shows traditional marriage has many pitfalls also, many of which are alleviated by community help, professional counseling, and nurturing unconditional love. All of those criteria are necessary regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. I mean no disrespect to Justice Scalia, and my next statement is meant to be more generally applicable: Statements about the harm of same-sex marriage are ignorant, support an agenda that oppresses freedom, is in violation of the principles of this country, and if they violate ANY community standards, then it is those community standards that must change, it is known in the modern world as Progress.

The Gun Control Debacle, A.K.A When Dealing in Deadly Force Pays

The whole gun control debate has stirred such a whirlwind of activity, gun sales through the roof, no real alternative for the average person to combat someone else with a gun, and politicians telling people that the only solution for a bad guy with a gun, is for them to go out and buy themselves a gun. Or something to that effect. With no real statistical reason to allow guns in schools, but tons of them to limit the amount of personal arsenal available to individual citizens, and even more to limit the deadly force available to law enforcement, the new gun bill in front of Congress stand to be gutted of the balance that laws are intended to fulfill. It allows more guns in schools,  but limits the kind, and amount of ammunition available. This is a balance in response to the Newtown, and Columbine, and the other outbreaks of violence in response to being bullied. Taking away the provisions for limiting the ammo and type of weapon used, while allowing more weapons in schools, while simultaneously restricting the options available to children, telling them to go through proper channels, while enforcing those rules with deadly force, presents a duality that will be obvious, at least subconsciously, that even the youngest of preteens will understand on some level. Given our history as a country, and as a culture, this presents an even more volatile situation than exists without the gun bill. Perhaps this is the intent, perhaps not, but one thing is for certain, the ones winning right now, are those who make and distribute weapons of deadly force. Here is an excerpt from my facebook page, which I deleted, and posted here, that got me started on this subject, even though I don’t want to revisit topics in my blog, this one inspired me to comment, and it is different enough from my last post to warrant it.

The one thing that shouldn’t be happening: Gun ownership is one thing, but what exactly are we making when we have everyone at schools carrying guns? I am not against gun ownership, but returning to a “wild west” scenario where everyone owns, and wears, their weapon is a scenario that is untenable. it is the culmination of a flawed philosophy, and at LEAST a single backward step. the next move will be to make it a private security only, or law enforcement only, as soon as people complain about a police state. and the firearm industry will have had its fire sale, they will then get fat government and private contracts, to make weapons to combat the weapons they just sold. this is the strategy, make no  mistake, it has happened before, and the solution was metal detectors in schools, not weapons. the gun lobby wins in any solution, but one they make the most profit from is the one currently happening, and it WILL result in right disappearing.  The predator instinct will win, and they count on people responding with fear. Just look at the propaganda on both sides, both push fear, and either way the gun lobby wins when fear is rampant. why are we so afraid of guns in schools? there have been a handful of incidents in the last decade  or so, compared to the number of people who get bullied, so we put guns in schools? not do more about bullying? and then we try to subdue those who lash out by making them more afraid? when you can build a bomb from information on the internet and a little knowledge, when guns become commonplace in schools, and those that are oppressed have no other method to report, household bombs  will be the result. Terrorism like that isn’t cowardice, it is those who are powerless asserting their basic human right to not live in fear of the powerful, it is the ultimate expression of the American spirit: to rebel against oppression by those in power, and to use any means necessary, including violence, and guerrilla warfare (think British methods of warfare versus the Native American) it is how we won freedom from the British Empire, and if we continue to oppress our children, while filling them with tales of American Old West heroes, we will raise a generation of terrorists. It IS our history, flawed as it is, unless we do more to tell about our own flawed history of how we stole land from those who were already here, we will be educating our children to use guerrilla tactics and terrorist methods to ensure that oppression has a hero to fight against it.

Bullet Control, not Gun Control

Bullet control. It is a term used by some to describe good marksmanship, and a rallying cry for responsible gun ownership and use. I do not disagree, I do, however, believe it has not gone far enough. A gun without bullets is pretty much just a club. It isn’t intelligent, responsible, “good guys” with guns that we need to worry about, it is the the others, the irresponsible, the uninformed, and the overly scared and overly funded gun “nuts” that are worrisome. Which brings me to the crux of what I am saying: Keep the large stockpiling of ammunition at Gun Clubs and Shooting Ranges. Make them get licensed, and register with, at the very least, local authorities, and preferably, a national registry. Limit the amount of new ammo purchasable by individual citizens. There are holes in this, for sure, but there is no foolproof plan, and we have a guaranteed right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. However, we have no guaranteed right to a personal arsenal large enough, and supplied enough, to massacre dozens, or worse, hundreds of people. A well armed civilian militia is NOT a lone gunman with body armor holed up in a cabin with a personal arsenal. If our civil system, or if we are militarily invaded, our regulations of civilized life will be null and void, and ammunition stockpiles would be as close as a local gun range.

So, here are details of my idea, in a generalized manner. Limit personal ammunition, is first and foremost. There are several ways to do this, and Colorado has started (link here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/colorado-senate-gives-final-ok-to-gun-bills-including-magazine-limits-and-background-checks/2013/03/11/01ac55dc-8aac-11e2-a88e-461ffa2e34e4_story.html ) and I like the idea. Limit large capacity magazines, and to slightly address the other part of this, expanded background checks. I will come back to the expanded background checks. Limiting the amount of ammunition available for personal purchase has a few logistical snags, not the least of which is keeping track of who has bought what, and how often. However, just as the weapons themselves are registered, a centralized database of ammunition purchases, and a “soft” limit on how often (I will come back to this) individual citizens can purchase ammunition will encompass most of private  citizens, and nearly 100% of responsible gun owners. I know of very few responsible gun owners that would need more than 2-5 clips, magazines, or the equivalent amount of ammo, and/or the materials needed for reloading that equivalent amount. There are a small number of, mostly high profile (read Nugent) gun owners who would disagree, but they are the minority, and, if I may say, possibly borderline sane. (Ted, I like your hunting show and your music, but you are the full version of fan, you are a fanatic…) While limiting ammunition in this way will present some issues, most can be controlled by manner of implementation, proper time of that implementation, and adoption of the commercial opportunities the regulations will present.

First, limiting personal ammunition will garner some pushback, which is to be expected. Some will be in the form of lobbying, but most will really be a purchasing rush by individual citizens. Businesses will not need to make a rush, as the regulations would preclude that. This is to be expected, and implementing the national registry BEFORE the regulations (i.e. upon passing, or even prior, a national database will have been setup and the bugs worked out) will allow for tracking of individual stockpiles. We should not be concerned with people who have 50 guns, but only 10 bullets per gun, but 1 person with an assault rifle, and 1000 rounds is possibly a threat, and by the nature of their stockpiling, possibly a mild sociopath. either way, registering the ammo type, and amount, and being able to correlate with registered firearms, will be the first major step. Claiming your weapons, and your responsibility, should not be an issue with educated, responsible gun owners. While I do not know for certain, I am sure that any massive purchase of ammunition is already somewhat tracked, but once purchased it is no longer regulated, and tracked or correlated. This should be changed, and explicit when purchased. Any person that has that much ammunition and weapons should be registered, I would, and I am sure many others would, like to know if I and my children are living next to a small arsenal that could be turned against us at anytime, with devastating effect. And, conversely, any person that is responsible, registered, and known in the community, I would want to know, as they would be a valuable asset to any neighborhood watch program. With expanded background checks, both for violent charges, mental health history, and other violations of law, as well as historical violence, we can ensure responsible gun owners can continue exercising their Constitutional rights, and those who present the most clear and present danger are prohibited from taking as many people with them as they can.

Secondly, by allowing Gun Clubs and shooting ranges the ability to buy wholesale ammunition, as well as other regulated weapons to be available for rent, a whole new commercial opportunity, and still regulating while also educating, will be offered. Rather than expound on this in a linear, logical manner, I will attempt to present a picture not unlike an advertisement. Imagine for a moment, if you will, a family of gun enthusiasts who are also responsible gun owners. They wish to enjoy their passion, which they are constitutionally entitled to. So they do what any responsible family would do, they go to their local gun range. Nothing new there, it would be the standard way to do such things. No changes, still what people would do. The change? They do not bring ammo with them, they purchase it at the gun range, much like golf balls at a driving range. Also, for those who are so inclined, and have taken courses in safety, as well as proper use, can rent weapons that would otherwise be unavailable to everyday citizens. You can’t buy a Barrett .50 cal, but you can rent one for a day, and with proper construction and preparation of the range, you can fire one, and enjoy a rare thrill for anyone not involved with military or law enforcement. You want to fire a grenade launcher? Come on down to Guns-R-Us and fire off a few! Just purchase our complete package of safety class, ammunition, and you can make use of the Grenade and Rocket range. You wouldn’t necessarily need to even pack your own weapon around, but education and practice with your own weapon would be the main reason for going in my mind, but commercial possibilities abound. Competitive shooting, recreational shooting, and educational practice are all regulated, contained, and monitored. Also, with all the weaponry, private security has a whole new market with which to provide a needed, and valuable service. While there will always be a fringe amount of people that facetiously take advantage of the system, this layout limits that, and also allows for massive tracking, and easier pinpointing, of those likely to, or already engaged in such activity. Increased gun education, safety, commercial opportunity, and access to safe areas for enjoyment of these things, are all benefits to this idea, while there are no real practical detriments. No Constitutional rights infringed, general public safety is increased, and law enforcement would have a more effective and comprehensive tool when dealing with armed citizens, and their mental makeup, and personal arsenal. While it would not be perfect, after time, and enough ammo has gone past its shelf life, the regulations would be effective, and unintrusive. And an increase of commercial Gun Ranges would be likely, which would need significantly greater regulation, but that SHOULD be so. Any large depot of weapons and ammunition should be registered publicly. The general public has a right to know whether it is guns, ammo, nuclear missiles  napalm, or any other weaponry that has a potential for causing massive public harm. Individual rights, as well as the public interests are maintained with this plan.

Thirdly, background checks, as well as violent crimes, especially domestic violence or a history of using weapons while committing crimes, should be a deterrent to owning your own. I do not believe that it should always preclude someone from going to a gun range. I believe in second chances, and given enough time, education, and some other factors, i believe that gun ownership could be reinstated. That is my opinion, but my reasoning is thus: if someone commits a violent crime with a weapon when young, but after 20 years, they have been through  gun education, have no other offenses, violent or otherwise, and have a clean record and possibly even required recommendations from certain people involved in commercial gun use, they may be able to be granted provisional, and leading to full reinstatement of, their gun rights. They may be in a minority, but if they can do all those things, they may have done enough to show they are not a danger to society at large, and with the regulations I present, any lapse of such, by a singular individual, or small group thereof, would be limited in the damage they can do.

My ideas are not perfect, no attempt to regulate the behavior of people is. However, it presents, at least to me, the best balance of regulation in the name of public safety, while still allowing individual rights to continue with the least amount of infringement, and providing an expanded commercial sector that will only continue to grow. As I said in the beginning, a gun without bullets is just a club, and with this type of regulation, it would also be a Club. I would want to become a member, and i would still be unlikely to actually own a firearm, but I can tell you what, I would be one hell of a good shot. And judicious marksmanship, along with proper regulation, my friends, is bullet control, not gun control.

Sanitation for the Developing World

I have thought of the problems you often see in developing countries that tend to be extremely repulsive to western societies, and for good reason: poor sanitation. Human waste problems are rampant in developing nations. I always think of the movie Slumdog Millionaire and the outhouse scene. Far too many people live in this barely-worth-the-name sanitation solution. i have had some ideas, but the best variation on the theme i have seen yet is from Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) Unilever, and Clean Team Ghana. (article here: http://skollworldforum.org/2013/02/23/building-a-scalable-business-in-ghana-because-every-family-deserves-a-toilet/ ) The model this goes upon may seem archaic to people used to living with the modern equivalent of the Roman Aqueduct system; we tend to think of it like an outhouse, or a portable potty. But please, stop for a moment, there are advantages to this system, and they are many.

First: The cartridge system keeps the traditional stink to a minimum. They are basically sealed until the flush happens. This is a HUGE improvement over standard dug outhouses, and less harmful than the chemical fragrances used by portable toilets at outdoor concerts and such. it also allows for easier pickup, it is basically a switch-and-presto system. no muss, no fuss. The collection would be cheap, and there is benefits to the collection company(ies) that would perform the service to help keep costs low, or nonexistent. Which brings me to…

Second: the local storage solution can be  used as a local business model. Currently, this model with WSUP  is taking the collected waste to a municipal treatment site. This requires constant maintenance, governmental personnel, and is a drain on taxes and the working poor. If these smaller, localized collection drop-off locations can be planned correctly, there are several benefits to be realized. One benefit is the fertilizer from the fermentation and decay by bacterial means of the waste. In developing countries, this is a multiplicity of benefits. The reduction of public defecation and urination cleans up disease carrying waste, and the fertilizer is a concentrated form that can either be bought and distributed by the government as a free benefit for using the system, or it can be sold by the collection companies as a means to offset the cost of collection, either way it benefits the agricultural societies that tend to be the ones with the greatest sanitation problems, and it provides a lowering of costs for the working poor, and for those who have no money, while also providing an increased job market, and thereby an increased economic flow within a localized geographic area. Secondly, the gases that are released by the breakdown process are collectible, and saleable. Methane is the most  productive of these gases, as a cooking gas, and possibly heating as well. But the Carbon Dioxide, and Hydrogen Sulfide gases have industrial uses, and would create a localized supply for, what would be at least in the beginning, a small industrial complex. the sale of these gases would also offset the cost of collection. For developing countries, or at least areas, foreign aid, investment, or just local government investment, would be able to provide free sanitation to the most remote, and poor, constituents of their population. The poorest and most remote of the population brings me to the third benefit, one not realized by the capitalist side, but one for the governments, and the population itself.

Thirdly: By concentrating collections into smaller, economically feasible collection points, another benefit is created; Health and pollutant monitoring. If 2 or 3 villages have their waste collected into a local collection facility, one that breaks it down into fertilizer and gases, it will naturally concentrate an important means of monitoring what is going into the people in the even of a health crisis: their very own waste. For the very rural, very poor parts of the world, this is a very important piece. for the developing world, it provides local clustering for outbreak scenarios that is incredibly easy to monitor. Sampling small nodules of waste can identify sources of disease and pollution quickly, and accurately. This is important in countries where developing industries have the potential to do great, and irreparable harm. Also, for outbreaks of diseases that occur in the tropics, and other places, where on person coming from a trip to the country before hopping on a plane, can infect the world, this is a major benefit to the world that is worth monitoring. Small, accurately labeled samples, can be taken for governmental or other health agency collection and monitoring. The last benefit on my list is a bit more intangible too those used to the aqueduct system.

Fourth: The lack of centralized municipal plumbing and treatment facilities. This does several things; one, it either massively limits, or completely eliminates, public burden of sanitation. This is a striking contrast to the western world where the sewer piping, waste treatment facilities, and personnel are all publicly paid for. It also eliminates another public burden: digging and laying those large pipelines. Not having to massively engineer slopes, flow, and also eliminating the need for electrical pumps, never creates a public cost, while still providing jobs for the populace, but in a more scalable, and sustainable way. It creates businesses, and careers, not just 1-time work that mostly benefits large, foreign companies. Another subsidiary eddy in this economic flow is the fuel the collection vehicles would use: since most vehicles that would do this would be diesel powered, biodiesel can be used instead, thereby creating a demand, and supply, for high-yield, low value crops. Small rural farmers can not only farm for subsistence, many root vegetables that are not edible, or are less nutritionally dense for people, can be farmed more easily, and sold for creating biodiesel. This gives the farmers a constant market, allows for betterment of living conditions in areas that may not grow all food crops well, and provides another local industry by which local governments can sustainably tax.

While large foreign companies can, and likely will, supply the raw things like the vehicles, and many of the farm tools and implements, not to mention the huge market for designing and developing the smaller, more modular collection-site facilities, it provides local people with a sustainable base industry on which many others can build, as well as creating an atmosphere that allows foreign aid and investment to flourish. Immediate benefits to the education, industry, and health of local people will not only raise the standard of living, but provide the local governments with a strong base of public support, and a legacy of humanitarian industry that could serve to model the rest of the world. Not just Africa, also India, Island nations, and South and Central America can all benefit from this business model. (Latin America has a humanitarian streak that continues, and would lend itself to this model well, link here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/19/no-alternative-latin-america-has-a-few ) Let us hope, for all the wonderful poor, but hard-working and independent people of the world, that this will be adopted, and invested in, by the rich nations of the world. it is an investment in a future market and economy, it is an investment in independent business, and lastly, it is an investment in the welfare of people, and the world. there is NO long-term downside to this. There is an inherent flexibility to new technology, a much easier method of deployment of such technology, and a lower cost of maintenance, and a lowered cost and impact of any disaster. The modularity, local and global commercial opportunities with their associated tax revenue, and the multi-fold  health benefits to almost half of the world’s population makes this a model the world, and western industry, cannot afford to lose. This is how the world will continue to improve, this is one step of many, but it is a huge one.

Please, titans of industry, Giants of philanthropy, angel investors, and officials of government, hear this plea: Implement this program, everywhere you can, as much as possible, challenge our existing commercial industries to rise, and meet this unanswered demand. the children who die every day from something simple like diarrhea need it, the farmers who have to continually deforest land because their crops take too much nutrition out of the soil need it, the impoverished people in countries that have all the good land, but none of the needed help need it, and most of all, we that live in the developed world need this. We need to believe in the Soul of industry again, like when the motor car changed transportation, when refrigeration staved off food poisoning, and we eradicated smallpox. We have lost the Soul of industry, and we need it back. Let’s start here, shall we?